Monday, June 24, 2013

Spicy Salmon Sushi!

Okay…there’s nothing inherently Cajun about sushi.  At all.  Granted, most Louisiana sushi spots have crawfish and/or oyster rolls on their menu, but other than that… not much.

However, for me, sushi and Louisiana are intrinsically linked, because I didn’t LIKE sushi until I moved to New Orleans.  But that’s part of starting a new chapter in your life.  You move to a new place, you try new things.  Sometimes, you’re coerced into trying those new things by friends.

And let me tell you, if there’s a place to try sushi for the first time in the U.S., it’s New Orleans. Or really, anywhere that’s close to a coast.  Because you’re going to get delightfully fresh seafood. No need to play it safe with those Krabmeat cali-rolls.  Just gorge yourself on Gulf-caught lemonfish, oysters, tuna, eel…okay, and throw a crawfish roll or two in there as well.  They’re delish.

It’s safe to say now that I’m a total sushi addict.  The weirder the better.  Throw fruit on it, light it on fire…sure, I’ll try it.

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The “Green Monster” roll at Tsunami in Lafayette:  coconut shrimp, snowcrab, cucumber, cream cheese, kiwi, strawberry and avocado. It’s like dessert sushi.

So, being the food-nerd that I am, I decided I wanted to tackle homemade-sushi.  The Hubs (who is amazing, FYI—just in case I haven’t mentioned that before) bought me this loverly lil’ contraption called a Sushezi:

Yes, I know it looks like a lightsaber.  That’s part of the appeal.

It eliminates the need for the bamboo mat/saran wrap ordeal.  It flips open, you pack rice into each half, use the plunger part to make a hollow in the center, put in your fillings, then close it up, tighten it down (to compress the rice & make everything nice & tight), then you use the plunger to push it out onto a piece of nori, roll it up, slice, and voila, you’re done.

Wait…I’ll just show you.

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INGREDIENTS: (makes two 8-piece rolls)

1 piece of salmon (3-4 oz)

2 tbsp teriyaki sauce

1 cup sushi rice

1-2 tsp rice vinegar (I use apple cider vinegar & it works fine)

Approx 2 oz fat free cream cheese or neufchatel

green onions

1 tsp siracha sauce

2 tbsp mayo

2 sheets of full size nori (or 4 sheets of hand-roll nori)

 

DIRECTIONS:

Start with your rice.  This takes the longest, so just remember—if you think you’re going to want sushi around 7:30pm, start working with your rice around 5:30pm.   You have to rinse the rice several times to remove the excess starch then let it drain in a strainer for about 30 minutes before steaming it…and then once it’s cooked it steams in the pot for another 30 minutes or so.  Your box o’ sushi rice will have good instructions.

Most important part?  Use a good pot with a tight fitting lid.  If you let a lot of steam escape, your rice WILL burn.  Just FYI.

While your rice is prepping, marinate the salmon filet in the teriyaki sauce.  Once you start cooking your  rice, you can also do your salmon.  You can opt to bake your salmon in the oven, but we didn’t want to heat up the house, so I just pan-seared instead for a few minutes on each side (use a lid to help hold in the moisture so it doesn’t dry out).  Once it’s cooked, cut it into about 4 long strips.

In this waiting time, you can also make your spicy mayo.  Just mix the mayo & the siracha together in a small bowl and transfer into a baggie for easy squeezing onto the sushi.

Once your rice is steamed, transfer it into a bowl and add the vinegar, and then mix with a spatula or wet hands.  I hear there’s fanning involved in some recipes, but we didn’t go that far.

Lightly oil the Sushezi, and then transfer about 1/2 cup of rice into it, filling each side.  Use the center plunger to press a cavity into the middle of each side and then add your ingredients.  For us, that’s two strips of salmon + spicy mayo on one side, and then strips of cream cheese + green onions on the other side.

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Then, fold the two sides together, put the cap on the far end, and then use the plunger to compress the sushi.  This makes the rice on the two sides really bind together nicely.

IMG_20130623_194743 Another shot, showing the plunger.  It snaps shut, and then you turn the plunger to compress.  This one ended up a little short, so I had to compress a little further than normal.

Then, lay out your nori on a dry surface, remove the cap end of the Sushezi, and press the plunger to push the sushi roll out onto nori.  And yes, before you ask, the nori is QUITE imporant.  Since this sushi isn’t made in the normal way, it has a natural weak point at the place where the two halves were pressed together.  If you start to cut this with an inferior knife WITHOUT the nori, it’s going to start to break or flatten out.  The nori helps keep it all nice & tight.  (NOTE: The first time I tried using the Sushezi we didn’t have nori OR a very good knife, so I found this out the hard way. It was next to impossible to cut.  In a moment of panic Kitchen Improv, I used an egg-roll wrapper….but we’ll go into that some other time.)

IMG_20130623_194902 Ta-Daaaa!!!

Then, with dry fingers, roll it up.  When you get to the end, wet the nori so that it sticks to itself.

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Let the roll sit for about 10 minutes and the nori will soften & bind to the roll.  Then cut it into slices with a very sharp knife that's been wetted down.

Decorate with more spicy mayo, and you’re done!

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Thursday, June 20, 2013

The most delicious “healthy” bread EVAR: Chocolate Chip Coconut Pumpkin Bread

Yeah…pumpkin. So obviously these pics have been in the archive for a leeetle while waiting to be posted.  But I’ve been craving it, so I think it’s high time to share this deliciosity w/y’all.

A while back we bought a can of coconut milk for some Asian cuisine and then…then…then there was a half can of coconut milk sitting in my fridge.  And I had no idea what to do with it.  Until I found this recipe.

Of course, this recipe didn’t use up the half-can, but it definitely helped, and it was truly delicious.  The coconut milk makes it unbelievably moist.  We’ve lowered the fat content by replacing oil with applesauce, and cut the sugar a little by using Splenda Baking Blend instead of white sugar.  (if you have the Splenda brown sugar substitute, you can use that as well—I’ve always gotten good results with it in my baking.)

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INGREDIENTS:

1/2 cup chocolate chips

1.75 cups AP flour (or wheat flour if you feel so inclined)

1 cup brown sugar, packed

1/3 cup Splenda baking blend

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp nutmeg

1.5 tsp cinnamon

1 cup pumpkin puree (NOT pie filling)

1/2 cup cinnamon applesauce

1/3 cup coconut milk

1/2 cup coconut flakes

 

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat your oven to 350F; then grease and flour an 8x4 loaf pan.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugars, baking soda, salt, spices; mix well.  Then add in the pumpkin, applesauce, and coconut milk and mix until well combined.  Then fold in the coconut flakes and the chocolate chips.

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Pour into the prepared baking dish; bake for 1 hour 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

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This stuff is seriously heavenly.  The outside is slightly crisp & crunchy, and the inside is incredibly moist.  The pumpkin and the coconut really highlight each other.

NutriFacts: (Makes 10 servings—slice into five segments then cut once longways)

Calories 230.5

  Total Fat 4.0 g

  Saturated Fat 2.6 g

  Polyunsaturated Fat 0.0 g

  Monounsaturated Fat 0.1 g

  Cholesterol 0.0 mg

  Sodium 112.5 mg

  Potassium 70.5 mg

  Total Carbohydrate 53.4 g

  Dietary Fiber 3.2 g

  Sugars 38.7 g

  Protein 2.9 g

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Thirsty Thursday: The SoCojito.

Hi…have we met?  I’m a Beer Girl.  Unless I’m being a wine girl (not to be confused with a Whine Girl…which may or may not sometimes happen, we won’t go into that).  But usually, a Beer Girl. 

But sometimes, you have a crummy week & you have to hit the hard stuff.

…in a really tasty and fruity, refreshing kind of way.  Because you’re still a total Liquor Pansy.  Yeah, that’s right.  We haven’t forgotten about that time you barely sipped on a perfectly good 12-year smooth-as-a-baby’s-bum whiskey and let it get warm.  Sinner.

That’s where something like this concoction comes in handy.  Three sips in, and whatever cruddy things happened no longer matter, because your taste buds have gone on vacation to the Keys.  And you can finally zone out and play Candy Crush for an hour, because YOU DESERVE IT.

*coughs*

AAaaaaanyway.  Moving on.

feaux 014 Vacation in a glass.

(PS- Perspective on life:  This glass is neither half-empty, or half-full…it’s just freakin’ HUGE.)

 

INGREDIENTS:
50 mL SoCo Lime

20 mL simple syrup (2 tsp sugar, 2 tsp water, heated up for 20 seconds and stirred until dissolved)

(NOTE: If you’re watching your calories, you could use a packet of Splenda & water instead.)

1/4 lime

3-4 mint leaves

seltzer water (to taste)

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DIRECTIONS:

Muddle the mint leaves in the bottom of your glass (I have a small mortar & pestle, so I just use the pestle, but you could also just use the back of a small spoon), then squeeze the lime juice into the glass. 

Add the SoCo & the simple syrup and swirl.

Then top off with the seltzer water—you can be as conservative or liberal with the water as you want.  SoCo Lime tastes great, so you don’t need much—it’s just to give the drink a nice refreshing fizziness.

Sip, relax, and enjoy.  And ignore your husband when he says it tastes like toothpaste…he’s just had a bad day, too.   (And it TOTALLY doesn’t taste like toothpaste…unless you have mojito-flavored-toothpaste, in which case, please share.)

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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Galloway Greenway: aka Spinach-Green Apple Smoothie

Today, I took a health assessment on my insurance company’s website.  Not necessarily for “fun”…more for the $25 gift card that was promised to each employee that did so before July.  I’m glad they gave us that incentive, truly I am.  Because I hadn’t done a real “wellness exam” since I moved away from Louisiana (where my employer brought in a mobile clinic once each year to give us all fitness tests and do a blood panel because we can’t be trusted to make it to the doc’s office of our own free will).

So last week I got a well-woman exam, a tetanus booster, a blood panel, and a bone density scan.  And then today I entered all my data into the fancy-schmancy website feeling pretty good about myself, since my numbers were all good… no more high cholesterol (probably because I’m not eating delicious fatty Louisiana fried food anymore), normal glucose numbers…

But then, the health assessment gave me a whole different number of its own:  46.  FOURTY-SIX out of ONE HUNDRED.  That’s my health score.  Typical for my age is 58.

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My over-achieving self looks like this on the inside.

Why the low score?  Well, even though I have good blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol numbers, I apparently also have poor eating habits and don’t go to the gym enough.  Shocker, right?  And eating all that ice cream has made me a little soft around the middle…to the point that a stinkin’ computer had to tell me “You have a calculated BMI of 25.4.  Unfortunately, this means you are overweight.”  Thanks, Computer.  Thanks a LOT.  Also, my stress levels are too high, based on “job stress” from buying the business and dealing with the death of a loved one last year (I’m one of the executors of the estate).

Thankfully, Mr. Computer also had lots of suggestions for how to correct my issues and raise my overall health score.  And I’m all about increasing that score, because frankly, 46 is failing.  Ask any teacher.

So I took stock of my situation.  And one of the big issues with my personal diet right now is breakfast.  I’m a total zombie in the mornings, so breakfast has to be easy. Which means I’m notorious for NOT having a protein for breakfast (unless I get fast food, which really shouldn’t count).  I’m a cereal/cinnamon roll/yogurt kind of gal.  Sometimes I have the forethought to cook up 5 hard-boiled eggs over the weekend to tide me through the work week…but most of the time, no.

So when the Health Assessment asks me how many fruit/veggie servings I eat per day, I find myself wondering if the bits of onion & pepper in this morning’s Sonic breakfast burrito count as a “serving”… yeah.  I’m in trouble.  Wait---what category do the tater tots fall into???

Umm…is there a veggie in there somewhere?

But hey…I own an ice cream shoppe…that makes smoothies.  And part of my JOB is to create a new delicious smoothie every month. 

So I’d like to share with you my solution to the Breakfast Protein fiasco: The Galloway Greenway.

Photo Apr 30, 8 19 59 AM This was our Smoothie of the Month for May.  And it’s AWESOME.  I was skeptical of the green smoothie craze, but not anymore.  This thing is loaded with goodness.  Without protein powder, this smoothie packs 11g of protein, and only 188 calories, in a 16 oz serving.  WITH protein powder, it adds an extra 20g of protein and only 100 more calories.

We named it the “Galloway Greenway” because, well, it’s GREEN, and the series of trails that traverse across our city are called the Greenways.  And the one that starts right across from our shoppe is the Galloway Creek section.  You follow, right?

 

INGREDIENTS:

1 handful fresh spinach

4 oz fat free vanilla Greek yogurt

4 oz apple juice

6 oz frozen green apples, peeled & sliced

Protein Powder (optional) – I’d recommend unflavored if you go this route.

 

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a blender and pulse until smooth.

smoothie1Hi.  I’m famous on Instagram.”

You won’t taste the spinach.  I promise.  It’s all about the apple.  The tartness of the apples and the Greek yogurt go SO well together.  And it’s really light & refreshing.

Another delicious option?  Swap the apples for pineapple and the apple juice for OJ.  Freakin’ HEAVEN in a glass.  And it counts as 1 protein serving + 2 fruit/veggie servings!  SOOO much better for you than a greasy fast food burrito!

And when it comes to making smoothies, there’s no end to the great things you can add in. Buy some flaxseed at your local health food store (about a buck a pound), grind it up in a coffee grinder, and you’ve got a nutty add-in with tons of Omega-3s!

 

NutriFacts: (without protein powder)
Calories: 188

Fat: 0.3 g

Potassium: 475 mg

Carbs: 35 g

Fiber: 3 g

Protein: 11 g

Vitamin A: 28%

Vitamin C: 11%

Calcium: 16%

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

What your lunch says about your personality.

Or, at least: What MY lunch says about my personality.

Being in the professional world, I’ve become very familiar, through a series of HR-imposed team-building exercises, with the array of personality profile quizzes that are currently out there.  One of the more popular ones is the DISC assessment, which determines if you are Dominant, an Influencer, Steady, or Calculating.  It would probably shock no one who knows me personally that I fall under the category of Steady.  “Steadies” are fiercely loyal, friendly, sympathetic to others, and dependable.  Their primary weakness, however, is that they don’t deal well with change.

Introduce my lunch.  I forgot to bring anything for lunch today.  Happens at least 1-2x a week.  I keep a stash of food at my desk (i.e. canned ravioli and Ramen, which only technically passes as food in that it slowly kills you with sodium, rather than dying from starvation), but I try to reserve those for days that I absolutely cannot leave the office due to some emergency.  Other days, my go-to is Pizza Hut.

Seriously.

What is a food blogger doing at Pizza Hut, you ask?  Getting a salad to go, I answer.

Pizza Hut has “to-go” salads?  Yes, yes they do.  Something I’ve been familiar with since I was a kid, but is apparently news to 90% of Americans.  For $4.83 (give or take some tax) you can get a giant pile o’ salad from their salad bar and take it with you.  Weight doesn’t matter.  That’s the awesome thing.  See, Pizza Hut is 1.5 miles from my office; there’s a grocery store less than half a mile from my office that has a salad bar as well, but they charge $4.99 a pound.  At Pizza Hut, it’s like Priority Mail Flat Rate boxes—if it fits, it ships.  108 cubic inches of salad.  I’ve never weighed one, but I guarantee my average salad is at least a couple pounds, once you factor cottage cheese, dressing, and some sort of non-salad “salad” in there.

Growing up, my parents both usually worked weekends.  My mom got home on Saturdays around noon, and we would go to Pizza Hut to get salads & breadsticks to go, pick up a rental video, then come home, chow down while watching a movie, and then clean the house together.  P. much every Saturday, that was the routine.  So Pizza Hut has a very special place in my heart.  Plus…they all have T. Marzetti’s Honey French dressing, which makes my heart even happier.

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Heaven in a bottle.

Anyway.  I drove to Pizza Hut.  Only to find out that their salad bar was BROKEN.  No salad.  O_o <-- If I could figure out a way to make that face cry, I would.

There’s a Quizno’s, like, RIGHT across the street.  Also, a Hong Kong Inn, a Sonic, and a variety of other fast food establishments.

But no…the heart wants what the heart wants.  And today, the heart wants produce.

I accidentally left my smartphone at the office, so I head out on a journey…to try to REMEMBER where the next-closest P.Hut is. (Ugh---how did we find anything before smart phones?)  I vaguely remembered another one on the northwest side of town, so I head that way.  And yes…there USED to be one, but it’s now Kenny’s Non-Pizza Hut Pub & Grill. *sigh* Here, we’re surrounded by Burger King, Pizza Inn, Papa Murphy’s, Papa Johns (I see now that P.Hut got squeezed out of the market, despite their superior salad offerings)… do I give up & settle for a Whopper?  Hecks no.  It’s freakin’ SALAD DAY!

Then I remember one on the west-central part of town.  So I head south.  Thankfully, that one is still there, and the salad bar is intact.  Thank HEAVEN!

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My epic salad journey.  13.93 miles roundtrip.

And yet…it’s different.  Where is the cottage cheese?  Where are the little crunchy lo mein noodles that have no nutritional value whatsoever? Where did this cauliflower come from?   WHY ARE THERE NO CROUTONS?????  *takes a breath*  It’s okay, it’s okay.  We’ll deal.

And that, my friends, is how I logged 14 miles on my car to get THIS:

salad You’ll notice that conspicuously large piece of cauliflower in the  bottom right corner?  Yeah…that’s where I usually put the cottage cheese.  The cauliflower is really just a place holder.

But….in reality…completely worth it.

So, while I haven’t reached that Sheldon Cooper level of control where Monday is Thai Night and Tuesdays are always spent at the Cheesecake Factory… I fear it’s coming.

Abita Root Beer Caramelized Onions

Last month I made my quarterly jaunt to Louisiana for work and went to Charcoal’s Gourmet Burger Bar with my cousin Primo.  Charcoal’s has a pretty awesome menu; they specialize in exotic meat burgers and some pretty fun topping/cheese options.  I got an antelope burger with arugula, Midnight Moon gouda, tomato, jalapeno, praline bacon, and Abita  root beer caramelized onions. 

burger

My tall order.

The burger was so-so—a little lean and dry, even with 30% pork mixed into the blend.  C’est la vie.  But the combination of the jalapenos and the caramelized onions was fantastic.  The praline bacon was fairly tasty too, though Primo & I are both fairly sure we can create a better version (stay tuned)…

So when I got back home, I definitely wanted to take a whack at the caramelized onions.  Again, we were grilling (we have a surplus of brats in the house as we got a great deal on a case from our food distributor) and I wanted something a little different to go on top. Like…root beer onions!!!

 

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INGREDIENTS:

1/2 bottle Abita root beer (if you don’t have Abita, you can absolutely try it with a different brand)

salt & pepper

1/2 tsp cayenne

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 onion, sliced into thin rings

 

DIRECTIONS:

Pretty simple.  Heat your sauce pan over medium-high & add onions.  Season lightly with salt & pepper.  Then add the root beer.  Stir occasionally & cook for 10-15 minutes or until the liquid has evaporated.

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And you’ll end up with these beauties!

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Serve over brats, burgers, steak, grilled portabellas—whatever floats your fancy.  They’re deliciously sweet, so pair with something that has a little bite to it—spicy mustard, jalapenos, or a tart cheese like goat, blue, or feta.

Oh…and use the rest of that Abita root beer to make yourself a float!!!

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Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Grillin’ Time: Grilled Peaches & Ice Cream

So, you may notice a trend for a while:  If I make a post, it’s something super-simple and easy.  Because that’s about all we have time for anymore.  Summer is gearing up and things at the ice cream shoppe are in full swing!  It’s tiring and mass pandemonium at times, but we are still enjoying it… particularly that 7-hour coma we fall into every evening out of sheer exhaustion. :D

This week, peaches were on sale, as was corn, so we decided grilling was in order!  We charred a couple brats, seasoned our corn with smoked salt, chili powder & honey butter:

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…but a dessert was needed.   A grilled dessert.  That goes great with ice cream.

INGREDIENTS:

2 peaches, washed, halved & pits removed

1 tbsp light butter

1 tbsp honey

cinnamon

Vanilla ice cream

 

DIRECTIONS:

Melt the butter & honey together in a small bowl, and use a pastry brush to coat both sides of the peach halves.  (We used this honey butter on our corn too—delish)

Sprinkle cinnamon over the tops.

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Once your grill is good & heated,  place on the upper rack skin-side down and grill for 3-4 minutes, then flip and place on the lower rack for 3-4 minutes.

Serve with ice cream.  I sprinkled more cinnamon on mine—the Hubs went for extra honey.

IMG_3631DEVOUR!!!